Queen Mother of the Western Skies, Vignette Summary and Analysis
A grandmother plays with her infant granddaughter on her lap. She says she doesn’t know which is better, innocence or safety. She was once innocent and laughed “for no reason” but gave up that foolishness to protect herself. She taught her daughter to do the same. Now she wonders if she did the right thing.
The baby laughs. The grandmother pretends the baby is Syi Wang Mu, the Queen Mother of the Western Skies, who has already lived many lifetimes and knows the answer. She listens, and thanks the baby for her advice. She says the baby must teach its mother, the grandmother’s daughter, “how to lose your innocence but not your hope. How to laugh forever.”
This vignette completes the cycle. In the first vignette, a young woman travels to America with a swan and dreams. In the second, the woman, now the mother of a young child, struggles to raise her. In the third, her daughter is an adult, but she still tries to help her. In this vignette the woman is a grandmother. She reflects on her life and wonders whether she has done the best she could for her daughter. She decides that the best way to raise children is to show them the evils of the world but to maintain the hope that life can be good despite evil.
Maintaining hope in the face of the realities of life is one of the most important themes of this novel.